Topo Maps for Dummies » Wilderness Consciousness Faculty

Survival Skills

I’ve a confession: I’m horrible in terms of studying topo maps. I feel they’re wonderful instruments, I like taking a look at them, I can glean some data from them, however in terms of truly utilizing them, I’m an adamant newbie!

I made a decision it was time I acquired some schooling, so I known as my pal Julie Perry. Julie is an avid outdoorswoman, counselor, and former wilderness therapist. As a part of her wilderness remedy job she went on recon missions checking topo maps for accuracy, as a result of as I discovered, they aren’t as correct as I imagined!

Julie came visiting to my house one night and laid down a map from the Alpine Lakes Area right here in Washington. She requested me to look over the map and inform her what I observed. I may see blue traces that had been creeks, I may see the contour traces that I knew indicated elevation acquire or loss, there have been roads and lakes, and trails. I may inform the place there have been peaks. But it surely nonetheless felt completely unfamiliar, like exploring a species I do know nothing about.

She described some vital issues to contemplate when studying a map. I share them with you and urge you to place them to make use of as quickly as attainable! (Be aware: it will likely be helpful you probably have a topo map to take a look at. Go forward and seize one. We’ll be right here once you get again.)

  1. At all times contemplate the date that the map was created. The map we had been taking a look at was from 1982. Figuring out that the map is 28 years previous is vital as a result of, as everyone knows, nature shifts over time. Trails get worn out, springs vanish, and reappear elsewhere.
  2. Know your Contour Interval. That is discovered in the direction of the underside of the map and tells you what number of ft are between every contour line. The map we had been gazing upon had an 80-foot Contour Interval. Julie made positive to let me know that if something on the precise panorama was below 80 ft, the map makers weren’t required to place it on the map. So a 79-foot waterfall or a 50-foot sheer cliff is probably not discovered on the map. She laughed as she remembered coming throughout this many occasions and having to make use of her smarts and creativity to discover a new route. She instructed speaking with locals earlier than heading out on a bushwhacking journey!
  3. When you’re studying a topo map at house, maybe working towards your expertise, envision the panorama. Ask your self if I look in any course what am I seeing? And hold shifting from the element image to the larger image, utilizing your creativeness. This can repay if you find yourself within the precise location of your map.
  4. Study to acknowledge elevation good points and reduces rapidly. This will likely be a fantastic support if you find yourself on the transfer. For example, know that the contour traces type V’s round creeks and the purpose of the V all the time factors upstream. Once more shifting from the small to the big perspective will assist with this. And hold exploring the contour traces, learn the precise numbers on them, they inform you what the elevation is!

Right here is another cool data: topo maps are made out of aerial pictures, however we don’t know what time of yr the photographs had been taken. If a photograph was taken within the winter, when there tends to be extra water, a stream could present up on a map that in July is just about non-existent. And vice versa. Additionally, there are areas which can be shaded inexperienced and areas which can be shaded extra white or dotted inexperienced. The white or dotted inexperienced areas point out that there’s not sufficient vegetation to cover 40 males plus artillery! Once more, this could shift over time, so know the date of your map.

Lastly, I need to hit up declination. Declination is the distinction in levels between Magnetic North and True North and by way of map and compass work you should know the declination of the precise space the place you might be touring. In case you don’t and also you had been to stroll 10 miles in Washington State with out utilizing declination you’ll find yourself 3 miles astray, which is certainly not what you need, particularly if you’re misplaced! So take a while and perceive this idea.

I’m not at all now an skilled map reader. There may be simply a lot to be taught. I now have figuring out discipline marks, primary understandings, and a reminder that Thoughts’s Eye work by no means ends and solely improves all conditions! So get your self a topo map or two of your space and begin exploring. It is a nice technique to hold your expertise up over the Fall and Winter!

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